John Wick (2014)
A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: David Leitch, Chad Stahelski
Written by: Derek Kolstad
Produced by: 87Eleven, Company Films, DefyNite Films
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe, Michael Nyqvist, Adrienne Palicki, Lance Reddick, Ian McShane, Alfie Allen, John Leguizamo, Clarke Peters.
Whoa…this movie’s good? I’ve liked Keanu Reeves in movies before but I can wholly understand when people say he’s a terrible actor because he has made some absolute trash. So imagine my surprise walking out of JOHN WICK, a fast paced, action packed, and most surprising of all entertaining thriller. It’s not liable to win any awards, but it works nonetheless.
Keanu Reeves plays John Wick, a formerly retired hitman, who is essentially the “unstoppable badass” archetype we remember from action movies in the 80’s and 90’s. When his dog, which was a parting gift from his dying wife, gets brutally murdered, Mr. Wick goes on the hunt. What a blast of a hunt it is.
Reeves was never an actor for line delivery, he just was never very good at it. What’s interesting about him as an action hero though is just watching him maneuver through whatever scene he happens to be in, he’s not the Stallone/Schwarzenegger hulking mass of muscle, he’s nimble, he’s incredibly agile. Watching him is similar to watching a Jackie Chan or a Bruce Lee, every move he makes in a fight is strategic. This is one of the greatest assets of JOHN WICK, and hopefully this means Reeves will be coming back as an action hero.
First time director’s Chad Stahelski and David Leitch direct a competent action scene as well, with every shot being easy to follow despite how many things are happening on screen. The script isn’t inept, but it’s a non-presence, this is the kind of movie that requires a C script, not an A one. Not that this is bad for the kind of movie JOHN WICK is trying to be, just that it is worth mentioning.
The supporting performances, while brief, are consistently fun. Willem Dafoe is reliable as one of John’s hitman buddies, while Michael Nyqvist (the male lead in the Swedish GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) is properly convincing as the villain, and Ian McShane is fun as another friend of Wick’s. Others, including Adriene Palicki, Alfie Allen, and Lance Reddick work with what they’re given and do it well.
What more can really be said about JOHN WICK that wouldn’t end up sounding redundant? It’s an action movie, and the action works. Reeves has a good screen presence, and I personally enjoyed the reverence WICK seems to have for animals. Worth watching in a year that’s been surprisingly bereft of well-made, straight forward action movies.